Daily Archives: April 3, 2008

Gideon Rachman

Bertie Ahern, who has just resigned as Irish prime minister, is a Dubliner with the common touch. Taxi drivers in Dublin liked to point out his relatively modest house and the suburban pub in which he allegedly drank. Bertie’s outward modesty contrasted with the high-living of his political mentor, former pm, Charlie Haughey. But the apparent end of his political career is very reminiscent of Haughey. Both men were ultimately laid low by official tribunals investigating their finances and unexplained payments they had recieved.  Ahern must now wince at Haughey’s (admiring) description of him as “the most devious, the most cunning of them all.”

All of that makes Ahern sound like a very traditional Irish politician and prime minister. But watching Bertie operate in Europe over the past decade, it struck me that he represented a new Ireland. He was prime minister during the period in which Irish GDP-per-capita overtook that of Britain. And he dealt with the British and with other European leaders with complete confidence in who he was – and in the country he represented. That enabled him to form an excellent working relationship with Tony Blair – which was crucial in bringing peace to Northern Ireland. Ahern’s experience and patience as a negotiator was then used to good effect in Europe – where he successfully concluded negotiations on the European Union constitution: an achievement that had eluded Silvio Berlusconi of Italy. Read more